Thursday, 23 October 2014

FEATURE: Shocktober - Land of the Dead

Over the course of October, I shall be watching one horror movie a day and reviewing it right here for your reading pleasure. I haven't seen any of the films I'll be watching before and you can find the full list here. Spoilers!



So Land of the Dead is basically the French Revolution... but with zombies.

Bear with me here. In the wake of the zombie apocalypse, the human population has sought refuge in the ruins of Pittsburgh and set up their own society, complete with an electric barricade called 'The Throat'. In amongst these survivors is Riley Denbo who is retiring from his job as chief hunter gatherer having gained a good reputation for his work in fetching critical supplies in for the society. He works with Cholo who's a bit of a hothead and has aspirations of moving into a luxury apartment block called Fiddler's Green where all the rich people now live. See, in the wake of the apocalypse, society has fallen back into a feudal system where the rich seem to get richer and the poor get exploited in a variety of ways. Sound familiar?

Considering it was released in 2005, there is an odd prescience to the events of Land of the Dead that set it apart from its predecessors. Whereas Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead feel reactionary to their contemporary societies, Land feels downright prophetic. Given the prevalence of the Occupy movement post-financial crisis and the way in which it highlighted the huge gap between the rich and poor in society, Land explores the way in which this system is untenable. 

It's ruled by people (Dennis Hopper's Kaufman) who have very little knowledge of how the outside world works and rely on other people (Simon Baker's Riley) to sort it out for them. There's exploitation at every stage of this society, from Cholo's violent tendencies, Slack's prostitution and eventual use for zombie-baiting to the zombies being used as tourist attractions (hello Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright). There is corruption at every level in this new society and that's even before we get to what the zombies are currently up to.

So how does this all fit into Land of the Dead being the French Revolution?

In the late 18th century, revolutions were par for the course; you had the Americans breaking off from British rule and throwing tea around and you had the French railing against their aristocratic system. We English timed ours badly and missed the revolutionary fervour, but that didn't stop everyone getting very worried about what would happen if that fervour headed across the sea. Part of the reason for these revolutions was a growing awareness of what we now know as human rights and the aristocracy was seen as a tyrannical and oppressive force.

The French Revolution became the subject and worry of a huge amount of writers, all of whom wanting to offer their two cents on the issues that were arising. One of the most prolific was political theorist and philosopher, Edmund Burke. For Burke in his writings on the Revolution, the revolutionaries were a monstrous force, grotesque in their corruption of society; boundaries are fractured and people are contorted into a rabid force that cannot be controlled. He's not the only one to proffer this representation either; Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, although written much later, takes great delight in portraying fictional but key revolutionary figures like Madame Defarge as a warped, violent woman.

Returning to the Land of the Dead, a similar sort of class system is going on here. It's a feudalistic society predicated on getting to Fiddler's Green, the ultimate in social aspiration that this post-apocalyptic world has to offer. At the beginning of the film, the boundaries are very clear; the human section of the city is protected by 'The Throat' and the rich are further protected by the Fiddler's Green tower. There doesn't appear to be much social movement as the tower is fiercely guarded by Kaufman's selection committees, as Cholo finds out.

However, now is the time we get to what the zombies are up to because, if you hadn't already guessed where this is going, they are the revolutionaries about to tear everything down. Because they are evolving. Riley observes it early on when he sees the zombie dubbed Big Daddy in the credits calling out to others. Like the French revolutionaries, they have a growing awareness of what they are and what they are capable of. Big Daddy acts as a leader, rallying around the others, teaching them how to communicate with each other, how to use weapons and how to coordinate an attack using these basic tools.

It's important to note the various costumes here, especially for the contrast between Big Daddy and Kaufman. Big Daddy's a gas station attendant and still wears his uniform from back in the good old alive days. He's surrounded by zombies who are noticeable for their lack of formal wear; there's menial jobs, every day clothes that are a far cry from the elegantly turned out suits of the human characters fleeing from their Pittsburgh location. In short, the zombies are the underclasses here, the proletariat ready to tear down the established order which they of course then do. It's also crucial that Big Daddy is the one to kill Kaufman, the king usually found at the top of his castle, Fiddler's Green. It would have been more fitting to my argument if Kaufman was decapitated, but hey, you can't have everything.

Although I've linked it explicitly to the French Revolution, the zombie proletariat rising could easily be applied to any moment since in which the upper echelons of society have a bit of a wobble about what the poor are doing. We saw one recently following the financial crisis when the media had to demonise the Occupy protestors because everyone who wasn't the 99% started getting a bit nervous. It happens in any potential revolutionary situation; demonise the mob who are dissatisfied with the system and calm everyone down. 

The great thing about Land of the Dead though? The zombies win.

- Becky

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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

FEATURE: A Second Look - Alien 3


Just why would anyone want to set a release date before having a script, or even a firm concept, is beyond human comprehension. And yet it seems many properties in Hollywood are being developed this way. However, such practices applied to a hot studio property make one wonder whether those people know anything about this process at all. In any case, that’s how Alien 3 came to be. After numerous rewrites, different directors taking over, this film ended up in the hands of inexperienced young David Fincher. No time to ponder, no script to work with. What can possibly go wrong here?

The 1992 cinema audiences were treated to a messy Frankenstein's monster of a film. The narrative is choppy and fragmented. Many characters are not properly introduced, others disappear without a warning. The tone is inconsistent, pacing uneven, production values compromised. The optical effects developed for this project didn’t age well at all – feel rushed and badly integrated with live action footage. This list of sins is long.

Even if we ignore this film’s shortcomings on the technical level, it is still easy to understand why so many people dislike it. There is no baroque stylishness of Ridley Scott’s Alien to be enjoyed, nor does this story excite and exhilarate as much as Aliens. After two grand entries, the filmmakers served something more muted and almost contemplative. The monster itself doesn’t really appear a lot – cuts are quick, a lot of close-ups. On top of that, three beloved characters get killed off right at the start. Which, of course, completely undid the hopeful climax of James Cameron’s chapter.

Fincher, whether by improvisations or design, creates a strange and uneasy mood, oppressive and nihilistic. In that sense, Alien 3 anticipates his later works such as Seven and Fight Club. The bleak autopsy scene is a perfect summation of this theme – the sweet innocent child is now a paper white corpse being dissected and examined. Things get bleak and all of that is additionally enhanced by stark, unglamorous and cold photography of Alex Thomson. Again, quite a shock to a regular cinemagoer.

Whatever issues one might have with Alien 3, one thing is certain: Sigourney Weaver’s performance improved considerably since the previous two films. In Ridley Scott’s original, she was merely a technician and her acting was mostly functional. Ellen was a vulnerable element and one of Nostromo crew’s weakest personalities. That in itself made her a perfect proxy for the audience. James Cameron gave her a little more to do; there are human traits to be explored and Ripley’s relationship with both Newt and Hicks served that purpose well. And that’s how we got to the third chapter. This time, the actress gets to explore much deeper. Her character is no rookie anymore. After so much suffering and losing everyone she cared about, there is an element of resignation to her actions and her heroism is muted and quiet. There’s no more fear left, not for herself anyway. It’s astonishing that throughout this series, Weaver got to explore different aspects of the same person and her story lends itself quite naturally to those three acts as different as they may be from each other.

What’s additionally interesting about Ripley is that this time her sexuality gets touched up upon. True, there was a subtle hint of romance between her and Hicks in Aliens, even if only in a very basic and platonic way. Seeing Ellen undressing in the very climax of Ridley Scott’s entry felt completely asexual as well. Perhaps refreshingly so, in a way. What makes it strange, however, is that H.R. Giger’s designs were extremely sensual and that discord between the two was intriguing. Then we got to (then) final chapter of this story, in which she, quite randomly, offers sex to Charles Dance’s Clemens. It’s a really awkward moment, originating perhaps from constant script rewrites. One might draw a conclusion, the character at this point needs to feel something human and direct. For someone who spent of their lives running, having simple needs like this might make sense. Even if narratively those elements feel rather jarring.

The prison colony population of Fiorina 'Fury' 161 has its obvious roots in Vincent Ward’s unmade version. That film would have been even more bizarre than anything other filmmakers even attempted in this series. The somewhat believable setting of both Alien and Aliens would be replaced by Bosch-like wooden planet populated by technology-free monastic society. That script played on the more hallucinatory and symbolic meaning, rather than a literal one. Some of those elements still remain in the finished film – especially the quasi-Chirstian religious themes. The xenomorph is often referred to as a dragon, which very much suits those medieval sensibilities. On top of that, a theme of penance runs through Alien 3 as a major thread. It’s interesting that Ripley also seems to have a need to atone for something, perhaps her unusually extended life feels like a curse in the light of not being able to keep her loved ones alive as well. Her ultimate demise seems like a relief from the horrors and the only logical solution (which, of course, got subsequently ruined by Alien: Resurrection).

What makes all of those themes even more poignant is the masterful score from Elliot Goldenthal. The music combines numerous contemporary Corigliano-like compositional techniques with subtle electronic textures and, yet again, Catholic Mass elements – the Latin “Lamb of God” metaphor serves an important purpose throughout the score. The results fit requirements of horror genre but also elevate it to more haunting and operatic proportions. There’s something beautiful about all this sonic brutality that this composer conjured for Fincher’s film. What is interesting, he might be the only person involved in making this project that remembers it fondly.

One cannot talk about Alien 3 and not mention multiple versions available. The situation of this film is quite unique. Apart from the theatrical cut, an extended so-called “Assembly Cut” was created eleven years after initial release. It’s not simply an expansion but a drastically different presentation, containing alternate scenes not appearing in official release. While neither of them really makes a very good film, they nevertheless offer a fascinating glimpse into filmmaking process and how changes are being applied in editing and reshoots. Definitely worth investigating.

Ultimately, Alien 3 is a strange beast, stuck between two worlds - good and bad films. It’s powerful emotional resonance and boldness are undeniable, as is an excellent performance from Sigourney Weaver. However, shortcomings are multiple and cannot be ignored either. David Fincher just released his tenth feature – Gone Girl (reviewed here). Whatever he might think of his very first project, let his subsequent output serve as proof that good things in it were not just happy accidents – there’s a real talent there. In the end, we’ve all seen worse films worthy of disowning. This one is a respectable attempt all around in comparison.

- Karol

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FEATURE: Shocktober - Day of the Dead

Over the course of October, I shall be watching one horror movie a day and reviewing it right here for your reading pleasure. I haven't seen any of the films I'll be watching before and you can find the full list here

We've had zombies in their original voodoo form (sort of), we've had the quick, infected zombies (who aren't zombies in the strictest sense) and now we arrive at two films from the absolute daddy of the zombie genre, George A. Romero. Day of the Dead, released in 1985, follows a team of scientists attempting to study the zombies to find a way to either reverse the process or somehow make them docile and rehabilitate them into society. They're accompanied by a team of soldiers assigned to protect them, but tensions soon arise between the different ideologies and it's not long before all hell breaks loose.

Following the sublime Night of the Living Dead and the brilliant Dawn of the Dead is no mean feat and sadly, Day can't quite match up. Romero described the film as a "tragedy about how a lack of human communication causes chaos and collapse even in this small little pie slice of society" and it largely works effectively as such. It just doesn't feel quite as on point as other entries in the series. The lack of communication thread seems to be translated into a lot of shouting matches between the two teams, which feels somewhat realistic given the fraught situation, but a little repetitive on film. Some of the acting is overwrought at best and outright irritating at worst, which means Day is on rocky grounds to begin with.

Here, the zombies largely take a backseat to the ongoing machinations of the human population, interjecting only when the plot requires them to do so. In other films in the Dead series, they've represented more whether it was the racial politics or Cold War atmosphere in Night or the rampant consumerism in Dawn. There's vague links made in Day that the zombies are what we become when we lose all humanity and that communication breaks down, but it's not as solid an idea to grip on to and isn't presented as such. When the humans eventually start to turn on each other, the zombies are just there to clear up the mess rather than act as a reflection to what's going on.

Where the film is at its strongest is the sly bits of humour that so often creep into the action. Bub the zombie listening to music for the first time was a particular highlight and it's in the little moments like that that the film distinguishes itself. Richard Liberty's performance as 'Frankenstein', the doctor experimenting on the zombies, is the strongest in there, a gentle old man character with a not-so hidden darker and more hubristic side. Day must also be commended for the role of Dr Sarah Bowman, played by Lori Cardille, who isn't relegated to a damsel at any point in the film and clashes brilliantly with the brash masculinity around her.

As expected of a Romero flick, there are some wonderfully effective and gory moments that build into that sense of humour. A man's vocal chords being ripped and his scream getting increasingly higher pitched is a great touch and there's enough splatter and falling entrails to keep gore fans happy. The zombies themselves don't really register all that much aside from Bub, the zombie who is slowly learning to be human again. It's a great performance from Sherman Howard that manages to be both sympathetic and humourous at the same time.

Whilst I've criticised it a fair amount here, Day of the Dead is still an entertaining watch, even if it does feel a little flat. Tomorrow, I review Land of the Dead and I think Day suffers from me watching them so close together, because Land is a far richer thematic and entertaining viewing experience.

- Becky

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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

FEATURE: Shocktober - Snowtown

Over the course of October, I shall be watching one horror movie a day and reviewing it right here for your reading pleasure. I haven't seen any of the films I'll be watching before and you can find the full list here



There are some films that are swiftly described as an experience rather than something to be enjoyed, usually on particularly harrowing topics that don't often get explored in movies designed for entertainment. Snowtown, also known as The Snowtown Murders, is one of these experiences, a brutal and unflinching look at the story behind Australia's worst serial killer, John Bunting, and those he influenced and coerced into aiding him. Directed by Justin Kurzel, the film centres on James Vlassakis (Lucas Pittaway) and the circumstances that brought him into contact with Bunting (Daniel Henshall).

Rather than build something sensationalist out of a series of horrific murders, Kurzel opts for a pared back, clinical approach that examines these circumstances rather than simply presents them. The neighbourhood in which Jamie and his family reside is slowly decaying and evidence of poverty abounds. It allows for criminal activity, specifically the sexual abuse of children, to run rife and when their mother Elizabeth leaves her three sons with a neighbour, the problem is brought into their home. When Elizabeth discovers what has happened, the situation brings someone else into their home, the charismatic Bunting, who promises to rid them of their neighbour. He soon does so, coercing the boys into helping him terrorise the man until he leaves. In various meetings held in Elizabeth's home, Bunting and his associates adopt this vigilante role to plug the gaps left by an apparently inept justice system.

The corruption of the domestic space and familial relationships is something that continues throughout much of the film. Bunting's presence in amongst this failing little world is jarring; everyone else is fairly solemn whilst Bunting cracks jokes and spends a large amount of his time grinning. Henshall's performance gives him an alluring charisma in amidst this greyness and it's easy to understand why Jamie falls quickly under his influence. Bunting becomes the older brother/father figure that Jamie is clearly lacking and Pittaway layers the initial naivety with a sense of awe. This is someone who actually talks to him and understands what he's going through. It makes the moments in which Jamie's innocence is shattered harder to bear and it is harder still to accept his complicity in the later events.

The film is unflinching in its presentation of the sexual abuse and violence that it examines, made all the more unsettling by the calmness with which it is presented. These domestic settings allow for an extraordinary banality to define these proceedings which makes everything all the more unsettling. Sometimes, just the aftermath is shown, like a lengthy take of a bloodstained bathtub, followed by an answer-phone message clearly recored under duress as the victim tells their loved one that they've gone away.  In other moments, scenes of sexual abuse are scored by a cricket commentary. This connection between events of horrific violence and the everyday sounds of existence make for a disturbing pairing.

At all times, you are reminded of the truth of the situation, that these crimes occurred in an ordinary neighbourhood and in people's homes. Even in films that claim to be based on a true story, there is always a sense of artifice. This underlying knowledge that the world you are watching has been created from a page and not from reality allows for a sense of separation from the events that you are watching unfold. With Snowtown, there is no such comfort. The film is largely naturalistic, presented coldly and without prior judgement and crucially, without sensationalism.

Snowtown is, without doubt, one of the most brutal and uncompromising films I have seen and the first time this month where I've felt completely broken by the events I had just witnessed. In truth, there were moments when I didn't think I could actually make it to the end of the film, but, having done so, Snowtown is an immensely powerful experience.

- Becky

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Monday, 20 October 2014

THEATRE REVIEW: Forbidden Broadway - Vaudeville Theatre


Something an off-Broadway institution, musical theatre satire show Forbidden Broadway can currently be seen over on our shores, at the Strand’s Vaudeville Theatre, more specifically, having transferred from the Menier Chocolate Factory.

Razor sharp and devilishly witty, the show lovingly (or so it claims) rips to shreds a whole host of musical shows, performers, writers and more, perfectly pinpointing the source of humour in each individual musical. Unlike its original American counterpart, however, this version focuses almost exclusively on shows with are either on in the West End at the moment, are touring or at the very least fall within recent memory. Comedy comes from recognition, after all, and there are nods, well perhaps stabs would be more appropriate, to some pretty huge shows. From Billy Elliot to Phantom of the Opera via Wicked and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I would wager that most people in the audience would have been familiar with at least one or two shows in the parody repertoire.

And even if they weren’t, each sketch has enough silly, slapstick comedy in there to keep you going if you’re not getting the in-jokes.

Brought to life by a ludicrously talented cast, including Merrily We Roll Along’s, also on at the Menier, Forbidden Broadway is unfailingly funny throughout. For me the Les Miserables section, turning ‘One Day More’ into ’10 Years More’ and having great fun with the rotating stage was a particular highlight, in fact I would merrily have watched an full-show spoof of it, as was the Idina-bashing of Defying Gravity and Let it Go. Cristina Bianco's impression of Kristen Chenoweth is also well worth a mention, although admittedly by the nature of the show everyone will have their own personal favourites.

Laugh out loud funny, this is a great night out, particularly if you’re going with a gang of theatre nerds, professionals or a combination of the two. Oddly though, and I’m not sure whether this says good or bad things about the show, although I mean it as a compliment, the overwhelming effect on me when leaving the theatre was one of wanting to go and see again every one of the shows I’d just seen ridiculed.

I’ve also had every single one of the sketch songs in my head over the past few days since I saw it. And with musical theatre, there isn’t really a higher compliment than that.

★★★★★

- Jen

@jenniferklarge

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Watch the trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4arIIDKEUM

FEATURE: Shocktober - The Sacrament

Over the course of October, I shall be watching one horror movie a day and reviewing it right here for your reading pleasure. I haven't seen any of the films I'll be watching before and you can find the full list hereMajor spoilers ahead for this one - I had too much to talk about.



Utopian fiction sprung up a lot towards the end of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, a way of counteracting the constant driving development of industry and technology by finding something pure. Utopias varied from novel to novel, but a predominant trait was that this society had somehow got something right in their social system by engineering it somehow. For Charlotte Perkins Gilman, this was to imagine a society without men, a matriarchal structure that had evolved to reproduce asexually. H.G. Wells imagined a eugenically produced society founded on socialist principles and William Morris created something similar with a focus on health to lengthen life spans. 

One of the key things that all of these novels and more had in common was the character of the outsider, someone travelling from their contemporary society into one of these utopias and reporting on what they found and the differences they discovered. It allowed not only for an exploration of the these differences and the possible benefits they could provide, but also for an examination of what contemporary societies were lacking. It also led to the more satirical side of the genre to arise, one that pointed out all the various flaws in creating such utopias and the outsider characters came to be recognised as the sensible ones in the situation (think Aldous Huxley's Brave New World).

Although the film is largely cribbed from the true events of the Jonestown Massacre, there's a lot of this utopian exploration going on in The Sacrament. Journalists Sam and Jake tag along with Patrick who goes to visit the commune Eden Parish at the request of his sister, Caroline, who has been living there. It's a Christian settlement shrouded in secrecy; they have to fly to a certain location before being picked up and transported by helicopter. When they are there, they find a largely peaceful commune, ruled over by the charismatic Father, who everyone seems to obey happily.

The film adopts a found footage documentary approach which works well within this utopian context; like the diaries or narrations of the original utopian genre, the documentary serves to contrast the filmmakers' ideals, which also stand for the audience's, with those of Father and his 'children'. In the hands of the filmmakers, the camera becomes a questioning eye, evaluating each aspect of the commune for both the documentary and the audience. Initially, everything seems a little too good to be true. Everyone's happy and satisfied with their peaceful existence and there's an understanding on behalf of the filmmakers; they accept why people would want to live like this, but don't feel they could do it themselves.

However, even though things look calm on the surface, Ti West's screenplay drops in little hints that everything is not all right in paradise. There's men with guns guarding the gate, some people aren't so happy to see a camera crew wandering around and there's a general sense of unease. When Father finally appears amidst a round of applause and general rock star treatment, the film crew are granted an interview, which he quickly spins against them. He's a charismatic figure and it's easy to understand why people would flock to him, specifically the vulnerable people that the crew meet throughout the day. Gene Jones plays Father with a quiet menace and it's here that the presence of outsiders begins to affect those around them.

The crucial point in any utopian novel is when the outsiders have too much of an effect on the world they've wandered into. In Herland, for example, this break occurs when one of the male travellers attempts to force himself upon his female companion, a huge violation of Herland's rules. In The Sacrament, it's the opportunity to leave that the outsiders represent. Several residents assume that the filmmakers will be able to take people with them and this quickly causes a riot as they beg to be taken. However, like all utopias, steps are quickly taken to ensure that the status quo is maintained. In this case, it's to keep everyone together in death if they can't in life. Father's paranoia about the outside world leads to a plan that will find everyone committing mass suicide.

It's significant then that the camera is no longer in the hands of the filmmakers when the massacre itself begins. They are removed from the action and the film no longer carries the same judgemental quality that characterised it before, simply because their gaze isn't focused on these events. Instead, it is in the hands of Caroline who agrees entirely with what Father is doing to the point of killing her own brother. When the massacre begins, the film becomes considerably calmer, a sharp contrast to the hysteria that characterised it before Jake left for the helicopter. It makes the massacre itself incredibly chilling and a balance is struck as a result. 

Seeing these people die for their faith doesn't feel exploitative because we're left to form our own opinions on what we're seeing. When babies are fed syringes as their mothers willingly look on, when children drink the 'potion' down in one gulp because they're asked to or when a family begs their son to join them, the camera presents it coldly, in a matter of fact way. This in turn makes the events feel that much worse because the audience are. It's here that The Sacrament naturally must diverge from the utopian genre as the society is well and truly destroyed by Father's actions.

It's at this point that the camera is returned to the filmmakers, a necessity in order to align the audience back with the emotional core of the film and to observe the horrific aftermath of the massacre. The outsiders manage to escape, but not without leaving pretty much everyone in the camp dead in contrast to traditional utopias which would see the society continue as the outsiders leave. Here, the film closes with the tragic results of the massacre, a haunting reminder of the dangers of exploitation and fanaticism. 

- Becky

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Sunday, 19 October 2014

FILM REVIEW: Gone Girl


Based on the hugely successful Gillian Flynn novel of the same name, director David Fincher’s adaptation of Gone Girl was without doubt one of the most hotly anticipated film releases of the year. The advertising and PR campaign has been colossal, and there are already loud (very loud) whisperings of Best Picture nominations.

As one of the biggest Flynn fans going, as well as someone prone to negatively judge adaptations of books with the all the conviction of somebody watching their local Waterstones be burned down to make way for a Vue, I was more than a little concerned that the film would fall neatly into the trap of not living up to its own hype.

In an attempt to summarise the plot without giving away too many spoilers, the story focuses on Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) a teacher and ex-journalist who, on the day of his fifth wedding anniversary, discovers that his wife, Amy, (Rosamund Pike) is missing. He returns home from the bar he runs with his sister Margo (Carrie Coon) to find a crime scene in his living room. It looks like a break-in, although the police, when he eventually gets around to calling them, don’t seem so sure.

As his reaction to his wife’s disappearance grows increasingly out of synch and bizarre, and with him seeming to have little to no clue about her life when he’s out of the house, the finger of suspicion of both the police, represented by a truly excellent Kim Dickens as the wonderful Detective Rhonda, as well as the media begins to point to him. 

Is he just a mam struggling to come to terms with his missing soul-mate, or is something more sinister at play here? Throughout, we gain insight into their, perhaps not quite as idyllic as it seemed, marriage via extracts from the diary of the missing Amy. Largely taken directly from the book, these give us a window into the darker side of Nick Dunne, but can we trust this either?

There are plenty of complex ideas to deliver here, with crime, the recession and marriage all coming under the spotlight, but Fincher ticks every box with immense style. The cinematography is a dream, perfectly capturing the slightly patched-together nature of mid-west, small-town Americana that is Flynn’s calling card, and using colour beautifully to suggest the different perspectives and time periods as we move between the present day of Amy’s disappearance, the diary pieces and the early days their relationship.

This is complemented by a slick, darkly comic script, adapted by Flynn herself, as well as some truly brilliant performances from the key cast. Rosamund Pike presents an arrogant absent-ness to the character of Amy, a character who has all her life been fictionalised by her doting parents in their ‘Amazing Amy’ series, a character who knows other way but to play pretend her own life.  Both Fincher’s subtly brilliant direction and Pikes performance expertly realise the creepily unusual, the almost Carter-esque fairytale anti-heroines that are Flynn’s speciality. There is a certain head movement from her, in a certain scene (I’ll give you a clue, the scene is the reason the film is rated 18), which I really think is the most effective moment in the entire film. 

Neil Patrick Harris shines as Amy’s creepy, unavoidably camp ex-boyfriend, and Ben Affleck is perfectly cast everyman Nick, caught up in events he doesn’t quite understand, although with sinister undertones. I do think, though, that his character could have been pushed further. He could perhaps have benefited from more anger, the stress and dislike of those around him, particularly women, running closer to the surface than it is here. In the book, Nick is really our central perspective, but here he is outshone, appropriately enough, by his dazzling wife. 

Haunting, and unsatisfying in all the right places, Gone Girl gets its tone exactly right.
Certain elements could have been taken further, in order for it to make more of a statement about its key ideas. Character rather than theme seems to be the key focus here, but it would have been good to see slightly more of a mix.

All in all, though, this isn’t one put on your 'wait for Netflix' list. It looks gorgeous on the big screen, and hearing the discussions of your fellow cinema-goers on your way out will be a highlight in itself. 

It’s so, so much more than the crime thriller it’s been marketed as.

But then, so was the book.

★★★★


Jen@jenniferklarge

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